My blog - John Dutchman-Smith
Wednesday 1st June
The alarm woke me at 2.30 a.m. and I left home at 3.00 a.m. for an hour's drive to Liverpool airport where I checked in for an uneventful 6.00 a.m. flight to Amsterdam. I had a two hour wait for my connection to Minneapolis which was just as well since I had to queue for over an hour to pass through security at the gate. This made me wonder what my experience of "Homeland Security" might be on arrival at Minneapolis. I need not have worried because I cleared immigration and collected my luggage in less than 15 minutes and met Frank Harris who kindly drove me downtown.
Frank left me as he had more passengers to collect and after settling into the Radisson Hotel I went out to explore. I didn't get very far as I was tempted by an open air bistro on Nicolet Mall where I sat for an hour in the sunshine sipping Newcastle Brown ale.
On my return I met up with Alan Wyer and the two of us strolled down Nicolet Mall to Frank's condominium where we met up with Jim Hogg and his host Paul Kraska. We contacted Roy Morris who had arrived at the hotel and the six of us met up for dinner at McCormick and Schmicks - Frank's recommended fish restaurant where we had an excellent and convivial meal, and so to bed.
Thursday 2nd June
I woke early and went for an early morning stroll finding first a Starbucks and then the light electric railway station. On the way back I came across a really excellent Farmer's Market. The six of us reconvened for a leisurely breakfast at the hotel.
After breakfast Alan, Roy and I took the electric train to the Mall of America (or Mega Mall as it is known locally). Whilst this mall is enormous the only thing that sets it apart from any other is the enormous Disneyesque amusement park all under cover in the centre of the mall. We didn't buy anything except lunch after which we returned to the hotel to prepare for the evening's outing.
During the day there had been more arrivals and so by the time we assembled to board the bus to the BBQ we were joined by Chris Malpus, Richard van Doren, John Belton, Alvin Benemerito and his wife, Shanda, Alan Tibbetts and his friend Delbert Ross, Caid McKinlay and number of members of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge. We were transported to the home of Bro Andy Rice the Worshipful Master of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge where we were greeted by Andy and by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota Most Worshipful Brother Tom Hendrickson and many members and wives of local lodges.
An excellent evening ensued with dry weather, cold beer, hot food, and best of all a very warm welcome. Later round a smoky fire we chatted and exchanged experiences before reboarding the bus back to downtown. A quick nightcap and then zzzzzzzzz
Friday 3rd June
Breakfast and off to our first visit to the Scottish Rite Temple where we were to give our demonstration of an emulation ritual third degree ceremony the following day. We arrived at around 9.30 a.m. and commenced by working out what changes would be needed to accommodate the different arrangement of the furniture with the Worshipful Master, the Immediate Past Master and the Chaplain being seated together on an elevated stage. Fortunately the large altar which in American lodges is situated in the centre of the room was on castors and could easily be moved to a position more convenient for us. The main room in the temple is capable of seating over 1,200. We were expecting over 200 to attend the demonstration and we had decided that the majority would be spectators and that we would set up a virtual lodge in the centre of the room for the participants.
Under the direction of Alan Wyer we then rehearsed those members of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge who were to represent the body of the lodge during the demonstration in the UGLE signs of the three degrees.
Those members of Internet Lodge taking part were
- Worshipful Master Chris Malpus
- Immediate Past Master Alan Tibbetts
- As Chaplain Richard van Doren
- As Secretary Frank Harris
- As Senior Warden Alan Wyer
- As Junior Warden Roy Morris
- As Senior Deacon John Belton
- As Inner Guard Jim Hogg
- As Director of Ceremonies John Dutchman-Smith
- As Assistant Director of Ceremonies Alvin Benemerito
- As Steward Caid McKinlay
We were assisted by several members of Winston Churchill Lodge.
- As Junior Deacon Ted Martz
- As Tyler John Gann
- As Candidate Mike Ordorff
It wasn't an easy practice as it was our first time working together and we were in a strange environment but we got through without any major issues though I'm sure that it must have looked a little disjointed to our American on lookers. It was my first time ever as Director of Ceremonies and it was the first time that my assistant Alvin Benemerito had even seen a UGLE ceremony. Alvin did a great job the whole weekend and it was obvious to all that he really took it very seriously and especially that he really enjoyed it.
After the practice which didn't end till after 1 p.m. we retired to a local diner for lunch before heading back to the hotel to prepare for our evening outing.
The weather was quite hot and very humid as we set off mid afternoon to visit Stillwater prior to our cruise on the St Croix River. The journey in the bus to Stillwater was prolonged by the congestion caused by the one way lifting bridge in the middle of the town. Many of us together with our American hosts passed an hour in an Irish pub sampling Guinness and alternative beverages. We then moved to the jetty where we boarded our river boat and set sail. There has been much snowmelt this year and the water in the St Croix River which soon would join the Mississippi was about 15 feet above normal level. A very enjoyable cruise ensued during which an excellent dinner of either pork or catfish followed by apple crumble was served. Our return to Minneapolis allowed sufficient time for a nightcap in the hotel before retiring early in order to be prepared for the next day.
Saturday 4th June
The "big" day dawned and we had a 7.30 a.m. breakfast before leaving for the temple for a morning practice which started soon after 9.00 a.m. This one went very well and we were all pleased to be free to relax around 11 a.m. by which time many of the audience were already arriving. A snack lunch at a local cafe and we returned fully charged to take our seats in lodge whilst Sir Winston Churchill Lodge opened and then called off. It's time for us! A first for all of use is that we were all fitted with remote microphones before we started. I'm pleased to say that the demonstration went extremely well and was very well received. Everyone had worked very hard and it showed. The organist provided by our hosts was excellent and the sound engineer and lighting engineers both did a great job using a copy of our script. How many UGLE lodges have sound and lighting engineers? The ceremony was followed by a long question and answer session which continued right until we managed to leave the building to move to the Minneapolis Club for the Festive Board.
The Festive Board (see here) was another very different but splendid occasion.Fabulous food, much wine taking accompanied by Masonic Fire, excellent and short speeches all contributed to a marvellous evening. A poignant feature of the Festive Board was the table with one place setting in the centre of the room at which no-one would sit, this being in remebrance of absent and departed brethren. Both National Anthems and other singing all brought to a fine conclusion by the Tyler's toast given by our Tyler of the day John Gann. Bernie from SWC drove us the short distance back to the hotel and despite losing Alan Wyer on the way we all eventually reconvened there. As we retired to bed feeling very satisfied with our day we said our goodbyes to Caid and to Alvin and Shanda who were to depart early Sunday morning.
Sunday 5th June
After a leisurely breakfast we said goodbye to Alan Tibbetts and Delbert Ross who were driving back to Ontario. The four of us remaining in the hotel Chris, Roy Alan Wyer and I went for a stroll down to and along the Mississippi where we saw some pretty enormous fish cruising the banks. On the previous day we had been invited to go to the installation of Lebanon lodge which were pleased to attend. This was another new experience for us all as it was an "open" installation with ladies and children present. The ceremony was little different to what we would see in England except that no signs or words were used. The installation was followed by lemonade and cake and we were then invited back to the new master's home for further refreshment. Roy was flying home that evening and so since it was convenient to our hosts we were all given a lift to the airport where Roy checked in and Chris, Alan and I returned downtown on the light electric railway. We dined again at McCormick and Schmicks and retired to the hotel.
Monday 6th June
After breakfast Chris returned to the airport to pick up his rental car for the rest of his stay whilst Alan and I strolled down to Frank's condominium where we met up again with Richard van Doren and John Belton. The weather was fabulous and the temperature eventually reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit. After catching up on each other's news and reflections of the day Frank kindly took us back to the Scottish Rite temple where we had an excellent tour of a wonderful building. This was followed by a trip to a giant computer store where Richard researched his next computer and then lunch at another local diner. Alan and I were then dropped back at the Radisson in order to get ready for the next outing, this time to Lake Harriet lodge No 277 where we were to witness a double ceremony of raising USA style. Chris collected us in his rental car and we then sampled the delights of a totally congested freeway. Lodge was due to open at 4.30 p.m. and we got there with seconds to spare though the start was slightly delayed. There was a break for a superb home cooked steak dinner and the very thespian ceremony then continued until 10.10 p.m. We were invited back for more refreshment but politely declined as Frank was to drive Alan and I back downtown whilst Chris set off on his travels to the west. As we got into Frank's car late that evening the temperature was still 87 degrees. Back in the hotel Alan and I had one final nightcap before retiring ready for the journey home.
Tuesday 7th June
Alan and I - the remaining green bottles - met for breakfast and since we were both ready to depart went for a short stroll round the city centre. We were collected by Frank our tireless taxi driver at 11.00 a.m. Frank had already been to the airport earlier in the morning to drop off Richard van Doren and John Belton was with him as we three were travelling at similar times albeit by three different routes. Their first flight (to Newark) departed first and so we said our goodbyes at their gate and I, having been the first of the party to arrive in Minneapolis, was the last to leave. As I left the temperature outside was 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
An uneventful flight to Amsterdam got me there a little earlier than planned
Wednesday 8th June
Last leg of the journey and I flew on time to Liverpool. I arrived with the temperature barely 50 degrees and the rain bucketing down. The ground staff obviously decided that our luggage needed a wash and so they left it on the tarmac for 20 minutes in the torrential rain. It all arrived dripping wet and the contents did not escape. The final straw was that the prepaid parking ticket did not work and I was at first asked for a further 120 GBP which I negotiated away. Happy homecoming!
We had an excellent trip and were very well looked after. I believe that our visit has produced more members both for Internet Lodge and for Sir Winston Churchill Lodge. We also raised 400 GBP for our charity account thanks mainly to Caid McKinlay. My favourite memory is seeing acting Assistant Director of Ceremonies Alvin Benemerito leading the procession out of lodge. He was superb and looked pleased as punch as well he might
Sadly we never saw Frank Harris again. He was called to higher service on the 24th February 2012 less than a month before his next intended visit to the lodge.
Frank Harris 9th March 1927 to 24th February 2012
One of nature's true Gentlemen